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Friday, May 7, 2021

Small Screen Dreams

Thursday, May 13: The Mantu chef Hamid Noori tries to beat Bobby Flay.

Posted By on Fri, May 7, 2021 at 3:56 PM

“At first I thought it was a scam,” laughs The Mantu chef Hamid Noori. “Even when they flew me to New York and the car pulled up, I wasn’t sure if it was real.”

Within the first few months of opening his modern Afghan cuisine restaurant in 2019, Noori was asked to be a guest chef on the Food Network’s cooking competition, “Beat Bobby Flay.”

The premise of the show is simple: Two talented chefs compete against each other using a secret ingredient – in Noori’s case, snow peas – and the winner of the first round takes on the celebrity chef and cookbook author, Mr. Bobby Flay.

We won't tell you how Noori fared against first round competitor chef Lien Lin, but he did let us know that he was not particularly enthused about the secret ingredient, “I don’t ever really work with them, though when they interviewed me during the show I think I said I did!”

Noori says the show’s live audience, bright lights and fast-paced cooking rounds were merely background noise, “I was focused on what I was doing.” He was well-prepared for the pressure, too.

The Afghanistan-born chef has worked in restaurants all of his adult life, from tackling triple shifts in his home country (with a toddler, to boot) to owning his own fine-dining Carytown establishment.

“One time when I was working at a hotel [in Afghanistan], 25 of our kitchen staff quit in one day. We were left with only four people, so we had to become 25 people to serve hundreds of guests,” Noori says.

Noori isn’t the only River City chef to get 15 minutes on the small screen in 2021.

Chef and owner Brittanny Anderson of Brenner Pass, Metzger Bar & Butchery and Black Lodge appeared on “Top Chef” season 18 this April; local baker Keya Wingfield took home first place during season seven of Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship”; and chef Steve Glenn will appear on “Hell's Kitchen” Young Guns on Monday, May 31.

“I still cannot believe I went to compete with a star chef who is well-known around the world,” Noori says. “For me it is a miracle. It’s tough to believe things are happening the way you want.”

Cheer on Noori on “Beat Bobby Flay” season 28, episode 2 this Thursday May 13, 8 p.m., and follow The Mantu on Instagram for updates about its new lunch buffet offerings that launch in early summer.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Molting Season

Soft-shell crabs are starting to appear on Richmond menus. 

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2021 at 9:57 AM

Soft-shell crab season typically doesn’t kick off in Virginia until May 1, but Richmond restaurants started featuring softie specials as early as April 10 this year. 

“Ever since I can remember, it’s like a religious event,” says Bruce Edmonds of Hampton Roads-based wholesale seafood processor and distributor Sam Rust Seafood. 

“I don’t think soft-shell popularity will ever go away,” says the third-generation seafood supplier. “From ospreys and eagles, to rockfish and me and you, everyone eats crabs.”

Sam Rust, family-owned and operated since 1938, doesn’t wait around for the Chesapeake to warm up when ordering softies, though they use the Bay and James River as primary resources when they can. 

While Mother Nature sorts herself out in the mid-Atlantic, Sam Rust sources directly from the already mild waters of North and South Carolina – the soft-shell over creamy grits you enjoyed a couple of weeks ago probably grew up a couple of states south. 

In this sweet spot of mercurial spring weather, the competition for sourcing peelers, as they’re called, is hot, and Edmonds makes it his business to source and sell as many crabs as possible to retailers from the Outer Banks to Virginia Beach to Richmond. 

“I’ve met trucks at 2 or 3 in the morning before they go to a larger market, like New York City,” Edmonds says. Everyone pays a pretty penny for this seasonal delicacy, from the wholesaler to the restaurants to the customers. But with softie sales down 75% last year during the pandemic, Edmonds says they’re excited to have large orders this season. 

“This year seems to be pretty strong,” Edmonds says of the number of softies available.

Once crabbers bring in their highly sought-after catch, they’ll often keep them in shedding houses. These soft-shell havens house tanks that circulate seawater at a certain temperature with lights on 24/7 to trick the crabs into thinking it’s daytime. “The families who do this together, it’s quite a process, they won’t sleep for two months, rotating in and out,” Edmonds says. 

With late April temperatures dipping into the 40s and 50s, Edmonds says the crabs have gone into hiding for a bit: The cold water stuns them and prevents them from shedding. Warmer days are ahead, though – keep an eye out for more soft-shell specials hitting menus in the coming weeks at restaurants like Perch, Red Salt, Soul Taco, Lillie Pearl, Latitude Seafood and Black Lodge.

Friday, March 12, 2021

For All

Common Eats founders’ new online food market hopes to make quality food accessible.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 12, 2021 at 3:12 PM

Richmond native Tori Stowers understands the power of a great story.

After years of working with both local and national brands at a digital ad agency, her current full-time gig, Stowers is familiar with how brand messaging resonates with consumers. She recently launched bimonthly online local food market Common Eats to help Richmond chefs, bakers and makers get their goods into as many hands as possible.

Stowers knows that we as buyers shop not just for the best kombucha on the shelf – we want the best kombucha with the most compelling story behind it. For instance, see Common Eats vendor SoulSmith Kombucha.

We sat down with Stowers to learn more about this online market.

Style Weekly: You already have a full-time job and two children younger than 4 – what motivated you to start Common Eats?

Tori Stowers: Before I had kids one of my favorite things to do was to go around town and try new restaurants and food trucks. Then with kids and all the things kids bring – even strapping in a car seat – it was hard to get out.

When the pandemic hit, it compounded that. I started shopping at a lot of big brands and going through drive-thrus, whatever was convenient to my lifestyle. I realized I was barely buying any local products and decided I needed to figure out how to make local food more accessible.

How has Common Eats evolved from your original idea to the market that it is today?

I originally had a pop-up drive-thru idea, which was interesting, but not scalable. One thing I have found about this business that I love is that people – through talking or even through Instagram messages – have helped me build this, giving me suggestions of what to try, like moving things online. Today we have the online market run bimonthly. Sales open the Sunday before the market date, and customers can place their orders between Sunday and Wednesday. On Saturday morning they can pick up their order from our operations headquarters [104 Shockoe Slip] or they can opt for free local delivery within a 20-mile radius. We’ve partnered with Chop Chop RVA drivers, which has been great.

How does one become a Common Eats vendor?

We only have three requirements, because we want to make this as inclusive as possible: The business must be approved for wholesale, it must be local to Richmond and it has to be good. We haven’t had any trouble with that last part.

Have you considered creating a storefront version?

Right now it’s too early to say. I just hope that I can provide a place of discovery and ease of buying for consumers. For the makers I’m hoping it will create a space where they can promote items, reach a bigger audience and create connections with other chefs and bakers.

Locally made goods are typically more expensive than the generic brands you find at big box stores. How do you overcome this hurdle?

Our mission statement is making local food more convenient and accessible to all. Shopping local is a privilege, whether that’s from a location standpoint or a socio-economic standpoint. People can email me at any point to discuss a pricing structure. We have a pay-what-you-can program so anyone who sees something they really like but might not be able to afford, or if they’re outside of the delivery or if Saturday delivery doesn't work for them, we want to figure out how to make it happen.

Sales for the next Common Eats market open Sunday, March 21.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Catering to the Culture

In its fifth year, Richmond Black Restaurant Experience goes virtual in a big way.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2021 at 3:35 PM

Anyone who feels like there’s nothing fun and safe to do during the pandemic clearly hasn’t spoken with Shemicia Bowen, one of the three women behind the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience. For the food festival’s fifth iteration, she, Kelli Lemon, and Amy Wentz have pulled together a 10-day culinary journey featuring over 70 Black-owned businesses around town, running from March 5 to 14.

“With 27 food trucks and 43 brick-and-mortar establishments, we have a full menu of experiences for folks this year,” Bowen says. “We are trying to connect the culture of Richmond to the cuisine of Richmond, and that means going beyond soul food to include the full array of foods Black people provide this city.”

Some 2021 new additions to the long list of participating Richmond Black Restaurant Experience businesses highlight the diversity that will be on display in the coming weeks. Those looking for pizza can pick up a pie from Mommiana’s Dough in Shockoe Bottom. Jonesing for a smooth scoop of sophisticated ice cream? Check out Ruby Scoops on Brookland Park Boulevard. Those hungry for something altogether new to the city should explore the Jewish deli and African diaspora fusion of Soul Taco’s new pop-up concept: JewFro.

Folks can pick up food from participating businesses all festival long, but special events and virtual experiences are designed to make each day different. The festivities kick off Friday, March 5, with an Afrikana Film Fest virtual watch party of “Coming 2 America.” Mobile Soul Sunday on the 7th features three food trucks at each of nine significant sites for Richmond’s Black heritage including the Arthur Ashe Center, the Devil’s Half Acre, and the Rumors of War statue at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, among others. Wine tastings, game nights, painting classes, and even a DJ set honoring Notorious B.I.G. complete the rest of the lineup.

What began as just a week has since grown into a year-round celebration of Black contributions to Richmond’s culture and cuisine. “We purposefully hold this event outside of February because we are creating an experience that goes on 365 days a year,” Bowen explains. “This isn’t about Black history, this is about Black prosperity and sustainability. We want these businesses to be around for an entire generation.”

From providing personal protective equipment to crowdsourcing over $45,000 in assistance, the women behind the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience have worked tirelessly to keep Black-owned establishments afloat throughout the pandemic.

“One of the coolest things we did this summer was delivering checks to local businesses that were struggling and had no idea that such assistance was coming,” Bowen says.

With an anticipated 32,000 participants, this year the organizers say they expect direct revenue to businesses to eclipse $2 million.

“We want to reclaim and reimagine Richmond with the Black Restaurant Experience as a time for the city to become a tourist destination,” Bowen says. “People around the country should know Black Richmond is part of the hip new Richmond as well.”

Monday, February 22, 2021

All Heart (and Tacos)

Carlos Ordaz-Nunez’s pop-up TBT El Gallo finds permanent home in March.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 10:43 AM

The city, held captive by back-to-back winter storm warnings and roads slick with ice, has not been kind to restaurants of late. Especially not the itinerant ones that operate out of borrowed white minivans, popping up at breweries with little more than a few tables, a tent and grill.

“I’m from Mexico originally – we are not meant for this,” laughs Carlos Ordaz-Nunez.

The chef behind pop-up TBT El Gallo may not be meant for sleet and snow, but he is certainly meant to be the man behind the grill who eloquently attempts to define exactly what kind of food he’s making. And more importantly, what his food is not.

“We are not hardcore traditional,” Ordaz-Nunez stresses. “This is not what my grandpa would say he grew up eating.” But TBT El Gallo’s simple menu of tacos and burritos is certainly not “fusion-y” or out-there eclectic, either.

“I hate to use the word modern, and it’s not re-imagined Mexican food,” Ordaz-Nunez says. He lands on second generation Mexican cuisine, with flavors and cooking styles that are inherently Mexican, but with flavors rearranged ever so slightly.

“We aren’t reinventing the wheel,” he says. “Maybe just rethinking how you drive.”

Ordaz-Nunez and his small but scrappy team held their first pop-up this past September at a farmers market. He admits that everyone seemed to be a little confused, intrigued by the man and his wife standing in the middle of the market with a grill and table. He did not sell out that day.

Serendipitously, around the time the chef figured out how to successfully scale his operations, the great birria boom was getting national attention. “It was like lightning in a bottle,” Ordaz-Nunez says.

“I said ‘Let’s go full in, Cali style, make it really dirty, the way I grew up with.’” El Gallo’s birria tacos are made with shredded cheese, green onions, cilantro and consommé. “My mom said ‘Mijo! Don’t put that on there,” Ordaz-Nunez laughs.

Soon, people were showing up to the twice-weekly pop-ups just for the birria, accounting for at least a third of sales. Ordaz-Nunez says they’d sell 40 to 50 pounds of the 18-hour braised beef in just under three hours.

“People really like this, but it’s such a humble dish in Mexico,” Ordaz-Nunez says. “Your mom makes birria when you are out of money – sometimes it’s made with dirt cheap goat meat or less desirable cuts of beef.”

It took a while for Ordaz-Nunez to appreciate the humble roots of so many now-lauded Mexican dishes. Like any rebellious kid bucking parameters, Ordaz-Nunez says he ran way from Mexican cuisine for years.

Born in Mexico, the chef spent his early childhood in Southern California where his parents worked as migrant farmers. They moved to Mechanicsville – where they would eventually run their own farm – when Ordaz-Nunez was 5.

He says his mother had dreams of her son becoming a lawyer, but Ordaz-Nunez couldn’t stay out of the kitchen. “I was in D.C. working in fine dining. I always wanted to be a respected, high-end chef,” he says. “It wasn’t until I was 25 or 26 that I really started falling in love with the way Mexican food is prepared.”

Only weeks away from the grand opening of his first brick and mortar, the chef still is learning how to love the food he grew up on.

With the help of his parents and his uncle and his own savings account, Ordaz-Nunez says the restaurant secured a storefront quickly this fall. He assumed after a few pop-ups he’d transition seamlessly into the space before the end of the year.

The best-laid plans – opening a restaurant is taking longer than the chef anticipated. But he feels grateful for the delay.

“It’s given me time to decide what I want to do,” Ordaz-Nunez says. “I thought we would be prim and proper and authentic, more fine-dining Mexican. As time went on, I realized I just really wanted to make food that tastes good.”

The long-as-your-arm hangover burrito tastes good even in freezing temps, paired with a Veil lager and hard-working heat lamps. The tinga de pollo taco transcends the dreary weather, transporting you to a food cart on the streets of Oaxaca. Or maybe it is better suited for the streets of L.A., inherently Mexican, but second-generation. Not your grandpa’s taco.

“I want to build a temple to Mexican food,” Ordaz-Nunez says. “Then put graffiti on it.”

Look for TBT El Gallo to open at 2118 W. Cary St. in early March. Catch it before then at pop-ups at the Veil Brewing on Feb. 24, Tabol Brewing on Feb. 26, Stone Brewing on Feb. 27 and at Vasen Brewing on Feb. 28. Follow Carlos’ journey on Instagram @tbtelgallo.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Brookland Park’s Smoky Mug brings hot beans and brisket to the neighborhood. 

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2021 at 10:48 AM

As new restaurants have learned to adapt to the pandemic, so too have their customers.

“One thing I’ve been very grateful for when we first started this is our guests have been fantastic,” says Dan Lee, co-owner of Brookland Park’s newest coffee shop, Smoky Mug. 

“There have been the naysayers who say, ‘Oh how will you operate a restaurant?’ But guests have been self distancing – we’ve never had to come and tell them to space out,” Lee says. 

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Lee and the three other Smoky Mug owners – Marcella Lee, Ryan Maynes and Bethany Ann Dunbar – jokingly admit they’d love to have their quaint space serve as the next Brookland Park Cheers. 

And they’re off to a rip-roaring start, it seems.

Smoky Mug officially opened in the old Black Hand coffee space mid-November. When we chat two weeks later, a smattering of patrons enters and leave with their orders of iced oat milk lattes and steaming hot Americanos, all cheerfully bidding adieu on their way out. 

A semblance of regulars in the time of coronavirus is no small feat, and the owners say they hope to continue to build up a steady customer base of familiar faces. 

“It’s been great to be able to support our community by being in it,” Marcella says. “But we also try to employ people who live close by. We want to hire more people as we start to grow as well, and give people job opportunities who maybe don’t have access to a car.”

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

In addition to using a coffee blend roasted specially by a local, third-party roaster, the shop also stocks products from other small businesses like Dayum Jam and Chewy’s Bagels. It also retails Rasta Honey Man jars and has featured the ingredient in a recent seasonal beverage, the Saigon chai. “It’s milk and honey, it’s biblical!” Dan says. 

While four owners working closely together to open a new dining concept during a pandemic could spell disaster, the four partners seem to operate totally in sync.

Their paths first crossed personally – they’re all Brookland Park neighbors –before evolving into professional relationships. They’re not veteran industry folks except for Marcella, who has worked in restaurants since she was 14.

This isn’t to say they don’t bring ample experience to the entrepreneurial table. 

Dan is the vice president of neighboring business VII apparel, formerly Savage apparel, and says he inherited his small business know-how and volition from his immigrant parents. 

Marcella, who holds a personal training and nutrition certification, retired from the world of hair last December when she sold her hair salon. 

Dunbar spent a decade as a radiologist tech before moving into the world of medical sales. She’s also the Smoky Mug’s self-appointed interior designer, responsible for brightening up the minuscule square footage with bright white tile and deep teal walls. 

And then there’s Maynes, the man who will soon light up the Smoky Mug’s very own smoker. That’s right, while Smoky Mug is currently operating only as a coffee and breakfast-lunch spot, in 2021 the Brookland Park shop will become a deliciously quirky hybrid. 

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Before serving as a Marine, contractor, and eventually, a car salesman, Maynes was just a boy on a livestock farm in New Mexico. It’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about cows, which has informed his insight into many a barbecue lover’s favorite subject: brisket. 

One day last spring, neighbor Dan decided to follow the smoke trail from his house to Maynes’ yard. “I was cooking brisket and Dan said ‘Man, you ever thought about selling that?’” Maynes says, who had in fact been encouraged by fiancee Dunbar many times to launch a food truck. 

When Black Hand vacated, Dan told Maynes this was the time to strike – “He said, that would be the perfect place for a barbecue joint,” Maynes remembers. 

And so it was. 

Maynes’ barbecue menu is still under wraps, but he shared a few teasers. The barbecue will be served meat market, sell-out style – think ZZQ – with traditional meats and sides. “Brisket will be the star of the show,” Maynes says. But it will also have Carolina pulled pork and half chickens, with plans for sausages, too.  

Ryan Maynes, Bethany Ann Dunbar, Marcella Lee and Dan Lee opened Smoky Mug at 15 E. Brookland Park Blvd. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Ryan Maynes, Bethany Ann Dunbar, Marcella Lee and Dan Lee opened Smoky Mug at 15 E. Brookland Park Blvd.

Maynes will honor his New Mexico roots with Southwestern style barbecue tacos, plus some other “Southwestern plays on barbecue” that he isn’t ready to give away quite yet. The pitmaster will also be utilizing the unmistakable flavor of the green Hatch chile, which is only harvested a few months out of the year. 

In addition to professional advice from Chris Fultz and his crew members over at ZZQ, the Smoky Mug team says it’s been able to tap into the collective brainpower of some of the city’s most veteran managers and owners, getting advice on everything from how to visualize the space to how to maximize kitchen flow.

“It’s funny, because we never opened up anything before, we didn’t know any better,” Maynes says of opening a new restaurant during the pandemic. “It’s probably better for us that we didn’t know.”

They, like many other recently opened spots, automatically pandemic-proofed their business model, creating an inviting patio area and letting guests preview the menu with a QR code. 

“I think it’s eased up the anxiety of coming into a new space [as a customer] and looking at a new menu, the QR code lets people check it out in advance,” Marcella says. 

“And also they’re talking to people in line, recognizing people from the community. That makes people feel at ease. By the time they get to the register they’re feeling good, they know what they want and maybe they’ve made a new friend.”

Smoky Mug is now open at 15 E. Brookland Park Blvd., Mondays-Fridays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Reservoir Distillery Features Ed Trask Artwork

Glass auctions will raise money for the Holli Fund.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 4:00 AM

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Hometown whiskey champs, Reservoir Distillery's latest charity project involves a collaboration with well-known local muralist Ed Trask and Jason Lefton of the laser etching shop, Big Secret.

Proceeds from an ongoing auction running the 10 days leading up to Christmas will go to the Holli Fund, which provides emergency grants to local food workers experiencing crisis.

According to a blog post on Reservoir's website, Trask will create "ten sets of two glasses and two bottles—glassware etched with his artwork and then filled with Reservoir whiskey. The backdrop of etched glass, when placed together, will reveal the landscape of one of Richmond’s historic landmarks, the arched CSX A Line bridge—a true piece of architectural beauty stretching across the James River. These sets will then be auctioned from Ed’s Instagram (@edtrask) and Facebook accounts for the 10 days leading up to Christmas—one on each day."

Reservoir is crafting a special bourbon rye blend, a nod to Trask's favorite grain combo that he used to make for himself working at Millie's Diner. A second bottle will "hold our barrel aged bourbon finished off in a Burgundy Grand Cru wine cask, a spirit as unique as the artist himself," the website notes.

This is the second time that Reservoir has worked with Trask, who created the LOVEwork mural outside its business in Scott's Addition for the distillery's 10th anniversary.

The blog post also notes that Trask was interesting in helping out the charity because of his punk rock touring days (as a drummer with Avail and Kepone), with the artist noting: “Restaurants gave a backbone to all touring musicians. You come back from a tour and you could find a shift in between gigs. Waiting as a profession was respected, but it was my steppingstone. It made the wait time so much better, and it made me who I am ... Collaboration is everything. We can’t see these restaurants go out of business.”

The first auction will be held on Monday, Dec. 14 at 5 p.m., visit the distillery's website to learn more.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Meaty Matters

Now Open: The Feed Store serves up Virginia and North Carolina barbecue in former Goochland County general store.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2020 at 11:08 AM

At 2030 Broad Street Road in Maidens, the Feed Store looks like any country market situated on a two-lane highway – low-slung, white shingles, a smokehouse sign beckoning. You can almost smell the wood stacked high, the exhaust curling up behind the much-loved F-150 parked out front. 

Sara Kerfoot grew up down the road from the charming stand-alone building. “Visiting my parents we’d drive by the store, which was usually closed when we were going by,” recalls Kerfoot. “It’s such a cute, 100-year-old general store it seemed like a dream spot. One day I saw it was for rent.”

Kerfoot and husband Adam Hall, both former Saison employees, inquired about the status of the store and learned it was available.

“We’ve had to think about what the business looks like right now, versus what we want it to look like a couple years from now,” says Kerfoot about opening a new restaurant during a global pandemic. 

Right now, the Feed Store looks like to-go only with a “pretty standard” menu of wood-fired barbecue including ribs, pulled pork and chicken. 

Sides are also traditional, with rotating options like stewed green beans, mac and cheese, coleslaw and potato salad. “When you mention barbecue everyone has an opinion,” says Hall, noting he chose Virginia and North Carolina styles because, “That’s what I grew up on.” 

The Feed Store also has a retail arm, with house-made soda and beer and wine bottles available for grab and go. The couple says customers can picnic on the almost 2-acre property, or tailgate if they so choose.

Since opening in mid-November, Kerfoot says clientele has been mixed, with mostly Maidens-adjacent locals popping in during the week and Richmonders making the 30-minute trip on the weekends. Regardless of where they hail from, though, everyone has been quick to “walk in and introduce themselves,” Kerfoot says. Including a friendly older neighbor who casually mentioned his family had been in the area for “200 years.”

Going from working long hours as general manager and chef at a bustling downtown restaurant to manning the fires of a serene, bucolic barbecue joint sounds like a quality of life upgrade. But the couple says they still have their challenges.  

“We’ve gone from running a rat race to slowing down and paying attention,” Kerfoot says. “But you realize one minor thing can screw up the whole process – 10-12 hours is a long time to cook something, and then it disappears in 30 seconds,” she laughs. 

“I always thought of Saison as a labor of love, with made-from-scratch ingredients, there was a lot of work put in in the kitchen, but this is such a labor-intensive process.” 

The Feed Store at 2030 Broad Street Road in Maidens is open for takeout only 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and noon-3 p.m. Sundays.

Also open:

Rabia Kamara’s scoop shop, Ruby Scoops, is now open at 120 W. Brookland Park Blvd. serving ice cream, shakes and floats. The shop’s winter hours are 1-7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Former Eat Restaurant Partners employees Mike Lindsey and wife Kimberly Love-Lindsey have opened their first solo venture, Southern-inspired Lillie Pearl, at 416 E. Grace St. It’s open for lunch Tuesdays-Saturdays, dinner Tuesdays-Sundays and Sunday brunch. 

West End coffee shop Surrounding Counties is now open at 8801 Three Chopt Road specializing in all things caffeinated, plus international treats like kolaches. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch. 

Located in the former Brookland Park Black Hand Coffee shop at 15 E. Brookland Park Blvd., Smoky Mug brings the beans back to the neighborhood. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch with outdoor seating. Look for a full barbecue menu to launch early next year.

Mike Ledesma’s pandemic-proof concept, Instabowl, is now open at 2601 W. Cary St. It’s open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, serving to-go friendly options in, you guessed it, a variety of bowls. Breakfast options include steak and eggs and waffle tacos, while lunch looks like ahi tuna poke, pho and vegan crabby patties. 

Another pandemic friendly bowl-centric option, Elya is open at 7 E. Third St. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays with organic, vegan eats.  

An offshoot of popular tropical Thai restaurant Sabai, Sabai Jai restaurant and juice market is now open daily until 7 p.m. at 2713 W. Broad St.  

The Veil’s second River City location is open at 4910 Forest Hill Ave. with Y Tu Mamá Mexican Food on-site serving tacos, burritos and quesadillas galore. It’s open 4-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, noon-9 p.m. Saturdays and noon-6 p.m. Sundays.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Main Course: A Valentine Museum Restaurant Competition

Minority-owned business winner gets free rent for two years in the Valentine Museum.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 11:47 AM

The Metropolitan Business League in partnership with the Valentine Museum, the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience and Hatch Kitchen RVA, have announced a competition to apply to be the next food vendor/restaurant tenant in the Valentine. The grand prize winner gets its first two years at the Museum rent free.

The winner also receives a "Richmond Black Restaurant Experience Membership, a complimentary membership with the Metropolitan Business League, a strategy session with Big Spoon Co., an interview with Richmond Magazine and more."

According to a press release:

"Small business owners interested in applying for The Main Course: A Valentine Museum Restaurant Competition can submit their application Monday, Nov. 30 - Friday, Dec. 4 via the Metropolitan Business League website at www.thembl.org. Eligibility requirements include the submission of a 60 second pitch video, verification of having been in business for at least two years and confirmation of the business being located within the Richmond Region (City of Richmond, Chesterfield County, Henrico County, Hanover County). The Richmond Region Community will also have the opportunity to select the “Community Choice” award by voting via the MBL website, Monday, Dec. 7 - 9. The Community Choice winner will receive a complimentary one year membership to the Metropolitan Business League and a Richmond Black Restaurant Experience membership, designed to promote economic diversity while celebrating Richmond’s best food fare."

The Main Course - A Valentine Museum Restaurant Competition from Bleu on Vimeo.

"Many people talk about the need to help minority-owned businesses, but the Valentine Museum actually puts forth action to meet the needs," says Floyd Miller, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Business League in a release. "Their action is a testament to the caring nature of our community and how vitally important it is to lend a helping hand during a very critical period ... It is one example of leveling the playing field for minority businesses and giving them the opportunities for sustainability and growth. I am encouraged that other people and businesses will follow suit.”

The panel of judges is set to include: Ted Ukrop (developer, Quirk Hotel & Board of Trustees, The Valentine), Connie Hom (CEO/ president of Buckingham Greenery, Inc. and board of directors, the Metropolitan Business League), Chef Mike Lindsey (chef and owner of Lillie Pearl), Eileen Mellon (food editor of Richmond Magazine), Kevin Clay (president and founding partner of Big Spoon Co.) and Shemicia Bowen (co-founder of Richmond Black Restaurant Experience). They will determine the winning entry between the two semi-finalists that will cook off at Hatch Kitchen RVA and present their final dishes to the judges at the Valentine Museum on Monday, Dec. 14 to determine the final winner, according to the release.

The competition is open for entries from Monday, Nov. 30 - Friday, Dec. 4. The winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 14. Official rules and entry criteria can be found at www.thembl.org

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Giving We

This holiday season show some love to these local, food-focused nonprofits. 

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2020 at 12:10 PM

According to a recent study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, almost 500 people were experiencing homelessness in the Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico area on any given night in 2019. 

Feeding America’s 2018 “Map the Meal Gap” study found – in Richmond alone – 35,400 people were considered food insecure. That’s a whopping 15.8% of the city’s population. 

And, keep in mind, all of these statistics were gathered before a global pandemic flipped the world on its head.  

It goes without saying that now, more than ever, folks in need could use even more helping hands. This help can come without ribbons and can come without tags. Most organizations simply need time, food or funds: Even a dollar can help. 

Below, learn more about a few standout, food-focused nonprofits and how you can volunteer to help those in need as we close out 2020, because no one should be hungry during the holidays.

Focusing on community awareness, education and outreach, Feed the Streets RVA works to bring food to those who need it most. The nonprofit accepts online donations – $10 will feed one person for one day, $200 will feed one family for one week – and needs volunteer help for its big push during the holidays. Upcoming volunteer opportunities include the Dec. 13 Community Feed and the Dec. 20 Angel Tree pickup events. 

Join prolific local food justice activist and advocate Duron Chavis every Thursday from noon-3 p.m. through Dec. 17 as he and volunteers work to build resiliency gardens. Volunteers do not need special skills or green thumbs — you’ll help with mulching, planting cover crops and composting. The gardens you help build grow food that then nourishes those in communities who have long been disconnected from fresh, healthy produce. Online donations are also accepted if you cannot donate your time. 

A member of Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America, Feed More has been fighting hunger in Central Virginia for decades. The expansive nonprofit services in 34 counties and cities. You can help Feed More, well, feed more, by donating funds online, holding your own canned food drive, joining its hunger relief club, or volunteering your time as an administrative assistant, driver, packer or prepper. Now through the end of the month simply order a bowl of soup from McAlister’s Deli and 10 cents from every sale goes to Feed More’s Meals on Wheels program. And, through Dec. 1, you can donate an item to Feed More’s wish list for its Meals on Wheels clients – it’s filling 1,000 gift bags with both essentials and “things they’ll love.”

Since 2008, Shalom Farms has used sustainable growing practices to produce food for thousands of Richmonders. The 12-acre farm, which doubles as a learning lab, grew over a half-million servings of produce in 2019 alone. Shalom Farms works with community partners and programs to get healthy food back into the hands of those who need it most, distributing through the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, Grown to Go Mobile Market and Nutrition Distribution Network. While it has limited volunteering during the pandemic, you can still help the farm by donating funds online. 

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